Called by Name
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” John 20:16
Advertisers have concluded that the most attention-grabbing word that viewers react to is their own name. Thus a television channel in the UK has introduced personalized advertisements with their online streaming services.
We might enjoy hearing our name on television, but it doesn’t mean much without the intimacy that comes when someone who loves us says our name.
Mary Magdalene’s attention was arrested when, at the tomb where Jesus’s body had been laid after He was crucified on the cross, He spoke her name (John 20:16). With that single word, she turned in recognition to the Teacher whom she loved and followed, I imagine with a rush of disbelief and joy. The familiarity with which He spoke her name confirmed for her beyond a doubt that the One who’d known her perfectly was alive and not dead.
Although Mary shared a unique and special moment with Jesus, we too are personally loved by God. Jesus told Mary that He would ascend to His Father (v. 17), but He had also told His disciples that He would not leave them alone (John 14:15–18). God would send the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in His children (see Acts 2:1–13).
God’s story doesn’t change. Whether then or now, He knows those whom He loves (see John 10:14–15). He calls us by name.
God knows us, and He loves us. That’s easy to say but harder to believe sometimes—especially when we feel crippled by grief, when we feel completely alone.
This beautiful passage (John 20:11–18) can remind us that we can be honest with God. We don’t need to pretend to be happy. We can bring our pain to Him, exactly as it is. Tell Him why we’re crying (vv. 13, 15); tell Him when He seems far away. He loves us and wants us to run to Him in our pain (1 Peter 5:7). When we do, we can experience the tender love of our Father knowing and holding us in even those most painful places (John 20:16). And we can share with others how He brought joy even out of our weeping (v. 18).